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The principal activity of this Board for the past decade or more has been interpretation. The interpretive program is the focal point of bur efforts in research and restoration and serves as the agency's public face. An undertaking so close to the heart of an organization and one that consumes so inordinate an expenditure of its resources must be approached with an understanding and agreement on our part regarding its objectives, methodology, and conduct. I wish to present my analysis of the situation.
The basic question I believe we should address is the goal of interpretation.
Unless we have a consensus about what precisely we are trying to do our efforts will be chaotic. Some textbooks insist that interpretation is an educational experience. Like a continuing education program, they say interpretation should produce a change in the participants. Though our view about that depends upon definition, it seems difficult to imagine that meaningful education can be achieved in the space of an hour or so. I would ascribe to Freeman Tilden's assertion that the goal of interpretation is not instruction but to provoke interest. Learning may occur in the process but it is not didactic. We are not teachers. We are guides who point out features, make observations about.the past in relation to the surroundings that the visitor sees, and attempt to stimulate awareness and interest about those things.
Our visitors have an immeasurable range of interests, preparation, education and intelligence. Under those conditions we can hardly presume to educate.
If the goal then is to provoke interest the content of the interpretive progran should not attempt to educate by cramming inordinate numbers of facts and events into the narrative. The school program that we are planning to construct for the following year should reflect that goal. We should not seek to teach but to stimulate an initial interest. Avoid lectures or developing elaborate themes that will be wasted on children who are essentially looking to have a good time.
We want the visitor to emerge satisfied that he has received an intelligent and interesting explanation of the physical elements that were about him. The interpretive objective of this agency is spelled out in the 1976 Master Plan says the following:
"In its simplest form the interpretive objective is to bring the past of St.
Augustine to life and to make it enjoyable and meaningful to the visitor. To do this, the surroundings and activities of a prior time need to be tasteful and authentically recreated and presented in such a fashion that the visitor can relate the past, through all of his senses, in both an emotional and intellectual manner."